Interaction between the five female hormones (estrogens, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA’s and testosterone) are fundamental to health and hormone imbalances may negatively impact health. Below are examples of how hormone imbalances may impact health:
Weight Gain and Harmones
High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause unstable blood sugars and may increase sugar cravings. High estrogen levels may interfere with thyroid gland function and result in weight gain. High levels of testosterone and/or DHEAs may be associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome, a condition that makes weight loss very difficult.
Depression/ Difficulty Coping/ Irritability
While there is no guarantee that restoring hormone balance will lessen these mood symptoms, many women experience some relief from mood disorders when their hormones are balanced.
High or low levels of cortisol may affect sleep, as may low levels of estradiol. For some postmenopausal women, difficulty sleeping is directly related to hot flashes and night sweats, which are often signs of hormone imbalance. Once hormone imbalances are addressed, sleep issues may resolve.
Having too little estrogen can be associated with hot flashes, dry skin, vaginal atrophy, depression, etc.
Testosterone and estradiol help build bone, while high cortisol tends to break down bone. High cortisol is of particular concern because it breaks down bone and interferes with the bone building action of testosterone!
A common pattern of hormone imbalance shows up in women with breast cancer: above range estradiol, below range progesterone, above range evening cortisol and out of range DHEAs. The Estrogen Metabolism Ratio test can also give some insights into breast cancer risk.
Why Test Saliva Hormones?
- Saliva hormone testing is excellent at uncovering hormone imbalance.
- Saliva measures hormones that have actually made it into tissue, because hormones pass through saliva gland tissue before entering saliva. Blood measures hormones that may or may not get to tissue.
- Saliva collection is painless and easy to do at home. Blood collection requires a trip to the laboratory, and some hormones cannot be tested in blood (e.g. estriol).
- The stress of a needle puncture for blood collection tends to raise cortisol levels. Saliva collection is not known to raise cortisol levels.
Restoring Female Hormone Balance
- Low Estrogen: Low estrogen levels are often addressed by supplementing with estrogen cream or patches; however some nutritional supplements may also help improve symptoms.
- High Estrogen: Occurs either from making/retaining too much estrogen or supplementing with too much. Women who carry weight around their midsection often have high estrogen levels because fat cells have an enzyme that makes estrogen from adrenal hormones. Thus, weight loss often reduces estrogen levels. When estrogen levels are high, it is important to make sure there is enough progesterone to balance its effects. Supplementing with too much estrogen can make estrogen receptors less responsive to estrogen, leading to estrogen deficiency symptoms.
- Low Progesterone: Treatment often includes natural progesterone supplementation, which is generally very safe and effective. The herb chasteberry may also help normalize progesterone levels. Sometimes low progesterone indicates low thyroid hormone levels, therefore lab tests for thyroid function may be recommended.
- High Progesterone: Is almost always a consequence of over-supplementation. Therefore, it is likely that your health care practitioner will recommend a dose reduction. Prolonged supplementation of high doses of progesterone may cause progesterone receptors to become less sensitive, which could result in symptoms of low progesterone. Too much progesterone also sometimes leads to increased testosterone levels and symptoms of testosterone excess. A dose reduction or different progesterone type (cream instead of capsule) may be required.
- Low Cortisol: Low morning cortisol may be indicative of adrenal issues, which may require further testing or interventions by our health care provider.
- High Cortisol: High cortisol levels are associated with numerous symptoms and conditions including: bone loss, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and diabetes, weight gain, memory impairment and immune system suppression. High cortisol levels also interfere with the action of other hormones. Therefore, when cortisol levels are high, the first step in restoring hormone balance is often to lower cortisol levels. Your health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes as well supplements to help address high cortisol levels.
- Low DHEAs: The signs and symptoms of low DHEAs are not well-defined although low DHEAs is often associated with chronic illness. Some women may benefit from supplementing with DHEA to bring saliva hormone levels within range.
- High DHEAs: Is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance. Thus, it may be necessary to undergo further testing, or to receive treatment for these conditions.
- Low Testosterone: Sometimes adding progesterone or correcting adrenal issues can improve low testosterone symptoms. However, in some cases it may be necessary to supplement with testosterone.
- High Testosterone: Is associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance. Thus, it may be necessary to undergo further testing, or to receive treatment for these conditions.
Hormones and Female Sexual Dysfunction.
Physical: Physical conditions that may cause or contribute to sexual problems include arthritis, urinary or bowel difficulties, pelvic surgery, fatigue, headaches, other pain problems, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Certain medications, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines and chemotherapy drugs, can decrease your sex drive and your body’s ability to experience orgasm.
Hormonal: Lower estrogen levels after the menopausal transition may lead to changes in your genital tissues and your sexual responsiveness. The folds of skin that cover your genital region (labia) become thinner, exposing more of the clitoris. This increased exposure sometimes reduces the sensitivity of the clitoris, or may cause an unpleasant tingling or prickling sensation.
In addition, the vaginal lining becomes thinner and less elastic, particularly if you’re not sexually active. At the same time, the vagina requires more stimulation to relax and lubricate before intercourse. These factors can lead to painful intercourse (dyspareunia), and experiencing orgasm may take longer.
Your body’s hormone levels also shift after giving birth and during breast-feeding, which can lead to vaginal dryness and can affect your desire to have sex.
Psychological and Social: Untreated anxiety or depression can cause or contribute to sexual dysfunction, as can long-term stress. The worries of pregnancy and demands of being a new mother may have similar effects. Longstanding conflicts with your partner — about sex or any other aspect of your relationship — can diminish your sexual responsiveness as well. Cultural and religious issues and problems with your own body image also may contribute.
Emotional distress can be both a cause and a result of sexual dysfunction. Regardless of where the cycle began, you usually need to address relationship issues for treatment to be effective.
Female Hormones Treatment:
Testosterone cream, Intravaginal Estriol, L-Arginine cream, Oxytoxin nasal spray, counseling.